Chicken Tikka Masala is a wondrous dish that he would occasionally make for her. It was a favorite for both of them since they went through an Indian food phase Sophomore year of college. This recipe just tended to stick with them. The only downside was that it took 3 or more hours to make it, meaning they didn’t have it very often. He made a deal with her that if she made it instead of him, they could have it for dinner. She happily took on the challenge, her taste buds already watered with anticipation.
Getting together the ingredients was easy until she tried figuring out how to use his food processor. He saw her struggling and decided to lend a helping hand. He gave her the task of cubing the chicken. This was a feat all on its own as she cut it cautiously, remembering when she had cut open her thumb a month prior making apple pie. He stood next to her blending the marinade in the processor for the chicken. The aroma of all the spices made them prematurely anticipate devouring the meal, but this was only the beginning.
“Since I did the main part, you have to make the na’an.” He said, happy to not have to do his least favorite part. This was the type of bread served with dish. Na’an was the staple of the meal and without it, the dinner would just feel incomplete.
“Of course I’ll make it. Easy.” She got out the basic ingredients, mixing the yeast in luke warm water. Once it got to the point where she had to knead the bread, he hovered over her shoulder, his breath against her neck. He reached his arms around her, holding the bowl in place as she melded the dough inside itself. He helped her add more flour, offering to mold the sticky pile into a ball and wrap it up for her. It was then ready to be placed in a warm area for 3-4 hours while the chicken sat marinating in the fridge. He placed the rising dough in the vacant oven, leaving it off but knowing it would be warmer than room temperature inside its cavern.
He napped on the couch with their cat as she sat on the floor attempting to learn how to knit by watching YouTube videos. She got a cute picture of him and Kitty. Their two year old cat had cuddled towards his chest with her paw around his neck. She almost couldn’t stand how cute it was, snapping a few more photos with her IPhone.
A few hours later, he woke, asking her to begin the second process of making the sauce for the chicken. She scooped up the homemade recipe book she had artfully crafted for him years prior. The page for this particular recipe had the remnants of Tikka Masala dinner’s past. He refused to let her replace it, saying that it gave it character. What it really gave it was a slight odor, but then again he was the one who used it most.
The next step in the recipe was to preheat the oven to 400 degrees in order to cook the chicken. She did so as he cleaned out the litter box. Retrieving the ingredients from the fridge, including the marinated chicken, she set up the final step. When he finished his task and washed his hands, he took over, knowing that if she tried to finish it they may be out of a dinner. He let her chop the onion as he simmered olive oil in a deep pan on the stove. Once she was finished chopping, he pureed the onions and dumped them into the sizzling pan. “That doesn’t smell very good.” She said, crinkling her nose.
She could see his nostrils flare as he inhaled the scent. “That does smell weird. I don’t know what that is.” Their conversations went on for several minutes as they wondered about the odd yet familiar smell wafting through the apartment.
All of the sudden, he stopped mid-conversation, his eyes overly expressive with the realization of what the smell was.
“Babe… Did you turn on the oven?”
“Yeah, why? It said to in the…”
“Babe! The dough was in the oven!” He frantically ripped open the oven to see a large mound of risen bread as melted plastic dripped down over the oven rack. Sheer panic ran through her, expecting him to explode with rage over what she’d done.
“I am so sorry…I should have realized it was in there.” Disappointment was wrapped up in her words. The familiar smell had been melting plastic and she felt she should have known. A frown creased her face, knowing she ruined an important piece of their favorite meal and quite possibly his oven. The plastic bowl had cemented itself to the prongs of the rack and would need to be removed with pliers.
He looked up from disposing the mess she had made to see her face drenched in sorrow and responded gently with, “Babe, shit happens. Its okay. I love you.” She looked up, surprised at his reaction. They exchanged smiles and went out to buy some na’an from a local Indian restaurant.